The Army has set up a task force to develop an integrated information technology system to replace multiple systems currently used to manage the medical review and discharge process.
In a report released March 8, the Army Task Force on Behavioral Health recommended adoption of the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments’ planned integrated electronic health record to manage data and help speed up the medical discharge process. But the two departments scrapped the joint effort on Feb. 5.
The report said multiple tracking systems used to support the Defense/VA Integrated Disability Evaluation System, or IDES, “provide limited visibility while increasing workload and confusion for all participants concerned with the IDES process.”
Confusing administrative processes, poor management and lack of an integrated IT system have left active-duty troops stuck in the discharge system for 386 days, while the goal for processing is 295 days, the Army inspector general reported.
Margaret McBride, spokeswoman for the Army’s chief information officer, said the task force is evaluating courses of action including a proposed pilot and the development of an architecture that would support an integrated disability review system. The task force includes personnel from the CIO’s office, the Medical Command, the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel, and the National Guard Bureau, she said.
The Army envisions a new system “that will allow us to share data from authoritative sources to minimize duplicate entries, reduce paperwork, and share data with stakeholders involved across the IDES spectrum,” McBride said. “Our primary concern is to provide soldiers and their commanders with situational awareness about where they are in the process and how long they have remaining until completion.”
McBride did not provide cost or timeline projections, but she said the Army will continue to use current systems that support IDES until a new system is fielded.
One new system being used by Army medical staff is the Behavioral Health Data Portal. As of March, 45 out of 57 Army behavioral health clinics and hospitals were using the portal to track troops diagnosed with conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse, according to Army Medical Command spokeswoman Maria Tolleson.
The portal includes a dashboard that allows Medical Command officials to see the status of soldiers in the medical discharge process and their deployment records. The data is integrated with deployment health assessments by clinicians and self-reviews, Tolleson said.
The Army started developing the Behavioral Health Data Portal in December 2011 and began rolling it out in 2012. Costs to date are a modest $750,000 through a contract with ASM Research Inc. of Fairfax, Va., Tolleson said.
About 2,000 clinicians and clerks have access to the portal, and that number will grow to 3,000 when the system is fully deployed. The Behavioral Health Task Force reported that the Army would not finish training clinicians on how to use the portal until late 2014. But Tolleson said that information was erroneous, noting that the service completed training for all its behavioral health providers on Dec. 15, 2012.